Civics Class in the Streets of Seoul

All views and information presented herein are my own and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State.

Once a journalist, always a journalist, once a teacher always a teacher. Last night, my old journalist self beat the teacher self and off I went to experience history in the making.

I got a lesson on Korean civics through experiential learning.Experiential learning is essential to how we develop skills and knowledge. My favorite teaching and learning experiences are those that involve “ the process of actively exploring, doing and developing concepts”. Going outside with my students to touch and feel the snow, then coming back in, melting the snow and watching it change from solid to liquid is how I love to teach changes in matter.

So, integrating my “two selves”,  I went outside to observe a peaceful and orderly demonstration demanding the resignation of Korean President, Park Geun-hye over a corruption scandal involving her confidant Choi Soon-Sil. She is Korea’s 18th president and the first woman president. She is the daughter of Park Chung-hee who was president between 1963 and 1979.

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Although Korea is an ancient nation, South Korea is a young democracy. The country has gone through various constitutional amendments and military governments since the end of the Korean War in 1953. In 1987, after the famous June demonstrations the ruling government was forced to finally hold elections. These elections brought about the major democratic reforms – part of the present system of government.

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The march began at 5:30 pm in Gwanghwamun Square in the center of town. I watched the protesters as they walked  4- kilometer across central Seoul. I was not sure how far they would be walking or in which direction but it felt safe. Fortunately, I knew every area we went through.

Thousands of people marched down the streets old, young and younger, middle school, high school and university students and hundreds of families.

Students from middle school to college voiced their condemnation for their president who they believe allowed a close civilian friend to interfere with the affairs of the nation.

Parents were proudly teaching their children about the importance of having a voice in the process of their own future. It was touching to observe them taking pictures of their children holding anti-Park signs.

As everyone marched, they chanted “Park Geun-hye, step down” or “The owner of this country is the Korean people”.

Once darkness set in, the streets were covered in a golden glow. Thousands of people, held candles and chanted with a common voice in a peaceful civics lesson.

13 thoughts on “Civics Class in the Streets of Seoul

  1. I read and heard about this event from the Internet and my parents, but it is quite different to hear from you because you were actually there to witness and share your view about it. It’s significant that many people were involved from all ages, even young students. Thank you for allowing me to learn more from your experience!

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  2. What a great lesson! So interesting to see the parents’ perspective. I’ve seen a lot about this on the news here. You’re living through a historical event and reporting to the world!

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  3. I was there in spirit. I would have brought my daughter in the march as well. I trust Koreans, old or young, democratic or republican. They will and are saving the nation. Thank you for the photos. Your journalist and teacher self captured the march in a unique way. Other news media showed students and family, but not as authentic as your lens. You are meant to be there! –Carrie

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  4. Yes, a peaceful civics lesson. I have a feeling we will need a little Korean cultural influence after this election. we certainly needed it before. Such a timely post. Thank you.

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  5. Thank you for posting this for all of us. I am pretty sure that in near future, you will find out that you are really in the historical moment of Korea, because I believe and our Constitution declares that all the power of my country belongs to the people. I am trying to be obtimistic and hopeful. Let’s see what happens next. Say a prayer for Both Korea and the US.

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  6. A historic moment in both countries. Your observations feel more authentic than the media reports. Street demonstrations are an important form of collective speech and have enabled several transformative changes in South Korea. I am proud of this tradition. It’s great that you get to see this in person!! (You take really good photos; does this come with your journalist experience?!)

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